Relationships matter in all aspects of life. Even in writing. You never know where any random conversation or connection will lead or how one conversation can have an impact on your life. Like yesterday, when I stepped on a plane to Seattle, on my way back to Alaska.
It started when an American Airlines pilot from NC to Philly says: “Folks, we’re in a holding pattern, we have a 747 on our tail, Air Force One. They land first. We land whenever they let us. Could be a while. Stay in your seats.”
Me: “But—I really have to go, drank too much coffee this morning. I was counting on—you know—landing soon.”
Flight Attendant: “Ain’t happenin.”
An agonizing twenty minutes later, I have ten minutes to hit the rest room and flee to a terminal five miles from where I was, to catch my ride to Seattle. On the next flight, AA put me in 1st class as a comp for having cancelled a prior flight. Aw, geez, well okay.
Well Dressed 1st Class Perky Seatmate: “Hello, how’s your day going?”
Perky: “Happens all the time here, we’re used to it.”
Me: “Not in Alaska, instead we’re tailed by Russian migs.”
Me: “Only on a really clear day or with Google maps street view. Nah, just kidding. But sometimes our planes are chased by flocks of eagles or North Korean missiles.”
Me: I was kidding again. We just fly around in constant turbulence and noise from the northern lights storms.”
Perky: “Omigod what are those like?”
Me: “I’m messin’ with you again, it’s fun to do with people who’ve never been to Alaska. So, what do you do in real life?”
Perky: “I’m a billionaire. I own and operate 40 companies around the world.”
Me: “No shit.” (It popped out before I could stop it.) “Never heard anyone come right out with it like that. But then, I don’t get out much. Can I use you as a character in a novel?”
Perky: (Laughs) “I’d be honored, but don’t list my name or my business.”
Me: “Not a problem, I write fiction. Like Stephen King says, “I lie for a living.”
Perky: “Yeah, he said that last time we had lunch together.”
Me: (Duck-paddling not to be impressed) “Um, wow, that’s pretty—heady company. Why aren’t you on a lear jet, why are you slumming in 1st Class on American Airlines?”
Perky: (Laughs) “I let my CEOs use them.”
Me: “How generous of you. We have a long flight, so fill me in on what it’s like to be a billionaire. And don’t spare the details, I’m a writer.”
And so he did. It was like binge-listening to a mini-series for five and a half hours. He began by saying he didn’t have a college degree and it went uphill from there. An amazing American success story.
This is GOLD for a writer. I paid close attention, only listened, with occasional questions. And yes, he’s writing a memoir.
He inquired what I did, and I told him about my recent excitement with interest in my debut novel by a NYC publisher. Then Perky says, “I have close friends at Harper Collins and MacMillan, I can text them to say you’ll be sending your manuscript…”
At that point I panicked. “Thanks, but no,” I found myself saying. “I want to see what this one publisher says first.”
Perky: “Here’s my card. If at any point you’d like my help, let me know.”
It occurred to me that Perky might be shining me on as payback for my smart-alecky Alaska comments. Then one of his CEO peeps stepped up to talk to him, so I figured he must be legit.
Me: “Thanks for your offer, but I want to find a publisher on my own.”
Perky: “I can respect that, I did everything on my own. The thing is, dreams do come true if you don’t give up and you keep trying. I’m pushing eighty and I’m living proof.”
Me: “Thanks for the advice.”
It was just a random encounter on an airplane. But it drove home to me the importance of connecting with and listening to people from a writing perspective—or any other perspective. We all learn from each other, even from an impromptu interview of a billionaire slumming in first class on a commercial airline. Even if he did believe missiles chase our planes and the Alaskan aurora creates insane turbulence.
Kenny Bania on Seinfeld: “It’s GOLD for a writer, Jerry, GOLD!”
© Lois Paige Simenson and The Alaska Philosophaster, 2018, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to The Alaska Philosophaster with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.